Tuesday, January 12, 2016

David Bowie was classy, cool legend

“David — my man!”

It’s not uncommon for me to react exactly like that whenever I hear a David Bowie song on the radio. It’s rare for me not to have one or two of the British rocker’s albums, a CD mix I created or concert recording in my car. Bowie’s music always has been there for me if I need a pick-me-up.

When I heard about Bowie’s death Monday just after I turned on the radio, I was stunned. I couldn’t believe what I’d heard; the 69-year-old rock legend died peacefully Sunday after an 18-month battle with cancer — something he kept very private.

Fittingly, when I booted up my work laptop Monday (only a few minutes after hearing the devastating news), the first picture to appear on my desktop was a 1983 collage of my main man.

Now, when I hear Bowie’s music it’s bittersweet. Just as when I entered The Freight House Bar and Grill and his iconic “Ziggy Stardust” song was playing. Even the rock gods couldn’t plan that coincidence.

Monday was one long day of processing my loss — and the loss to music and pop culture. That night I watched Bowie’s “Serious Moonlight” DVD, a concert video that I wore out when I had the 1983 show on VHS.

Diehard David Bowie fan Cary Ashby takes a selfie in front of
a poster-sized collage he made several years ago.
Anyone who follows me on Facebook witnessed this diehard, self-declared Bowiehead trying to deal with my grief over my favorite performer and the man partially responsible for me playing saxophone. Keep reading Cary’s Comics Craze blog and you can read one of many tributes I plan to write. The first is my reflection on the six times I had the privilege of seeing the charismatic performer in concert. 

I could go on and on about Bowie’s influence on the music industry, adding a theatrical flair to performances, how underrated he’s been (both as a musician and actor), his versatility in everything he accomplished and never do the talented, barrier-breaking performer justice.

The words “legend” and “icon” are thrown around much too often. But Bowie truly was. And is. The pop-culture history books decades from now will place him in as high regard as Elvis Presley (who turned 12 when David Robert Jones was born) and The Beatles.

Let’s just agree on this: David Bowie epitomized cool.

How cool?

Bowie was married to former supermodel Iman for 24 years, long before such relationships became Internet fodder. Any time you saw the couple together you knew they were crazy about each other and it was obvious Iman was the love of Bowie’s life.

During his early days as his androgynous alter-ego Ziggy Stardust, Bowie went to interviews and radio or TV appearances with a bodyguard and a small entourage. Not because it was the thing to do or he could afford it, but because his business manager at the time thought it gave the impression Bowie was important. A star.

Bowie has cool friends, a virtual who’s who of rock royalty. His best friend is the godfather of punk rock (Iggy Pop). Bowie also has been long-time buds with the lead singer of The Rolling Stones.

He co-wrote “Fame” with John Lennon (and rhythm guitarist Carlos Alomar) after he and the Beatle were griping about their managers over drinks. During his 1983 tour for his LET'S DANCE album, there’s a backstage photo of Bette Midler sitting in Bowie’s lap — in the same room with Cher and Michael Jackson.

Pop-culture royalty hang out backstage with David Bowie in 1983.
Bette Midler sits on his lap. Sitting next to Bowie is Michael Jackson and on the far right is Cher.
Bowie released the first Internet-only single, many years before that became the norm.

Who is cool enough to celebrate his 50th birthday by performing a sold-out concert at Madison Square Garden one day later with modern rock acts billed as his “special friends”? Yup, Bowie did that in 1997.

Bowie performs in 1976 during his Thin White Duke era.
Bowie is so cool he even created characters with unbelievably awesome and catchy names: Major Tom, Ziggy Stardust, Halloween Jack, Screamin’ Lord Byron and my favorite nickname for him, The Thin White Duke.

My hope is Bowie’s death will epitomize the title of his last single and video, “Lazarus” (released on his 69th birthday, just two days before his death).

I hope his death means there’s a resurgence for the classy, Renaissance man who boldly embraced his uniqueness and wasn’t afraid to experiment — a pop-culture treasure who always will be synonymous with being cool.

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